With the end of the semester upon us, my work with the Project Entrepreneur Clinic is wrapping up. For those who don’t know, Project Entrepreneur is focused on helping citizens with criminal records successfully reenter society and supplying them with a general knowledge of business law necessary for them to grow their business ventures. I wrote more about it in an earlier post here.
My peers and I have worked closely with our clients, helping them come up with a business plan for their ideas, researching legal issues that they have or may run into, and most importantly, helping them build confidence in themselves and their ideas.
At most law schools, the 1L curriculum is locked into place, meaning students don’t have the opportunity to customize their schedules. But BC Law gives 1Ls the unique opportunity to take an elective, allowing students to interact with peers from other sections, take a break from large doctrinal lectures, and get some experiential learning in a practice area of their choice.
Course selection is right around the corner at BC, so if you’re a 1L, you may be feeling pressure to pick the best elective. The common advice is that you’ll get a good experience out of any elective you choose, and I definitely stand by that. Yet, you should still take some time over the next few weeks to follow these steps so you can make sure you get the most out of your semester.
1. Read the elective descriptions
To help 1Ls choose their electives, professors provide little synopses about the goals of their courses, the material they cover, and in some cases, how their classes will be structured. If you haven’t already read the descriptions of the electives offered next semester, you can find them here.
Returning to Newton Campus for my final year of law school has been full of excitement. While there are numerous things I am excited about this fall semester, one of them is my clinic, Project Entrepreneur.
Project Entrepreneur is designed to help returning citizens with criminal records successfully reenter society and supply them with a general knowledge of business law necessary for them to grow their business ventures. Having an undergraduate degree in business, I am excited to exercise what I’ve learned from both business school and law school, and I am looking forward to helping see someone’s ambitions come to fruition.
While I have only had one class meeting so far, I am already eager for the rest of the semester. Like many other clinics BC Law has to offer, the class is set up to run like a law firm, with Professor Lawrence Gennari as managing partner. Students meet twice a week: once with our clients to discuss their entrepreneurial efforts and to conduct classes for them, giving them the fundamentals they need to be successful entrepreneurs in a “boot camp” format; and another class to debrief with Professor Gennari and to refine our skillset to successfully counsel our clients.
The class culminates in a pitch session where the returning citizens pitch their businesses to potential investors. To learn more about Project Entrepreneur, check out this article from BC Law Magazine’s Winter 2021 issue.
Melissa Gaglia is a third-year student at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I came to law school not exactly sure about the type of law I wanted to practice, so I was particularly interested in experiential learning opportunities. Sure, I could learn about different legal fields and see how I liked them in practice during my summer internships, but clinics and externships would give me even more chances to try out various specialties and hopefully find what I was most passionate about. Knowing that these options are only available to 2Ls and 3Ls, I came into my first year ready to just hit the books and keep those other plans in the back of my mind for the upcoming semesters.
But Boston College Law School had different plans.
Writing an Impact post at the beginning of the semester is never easy. How to recapture the excitement for school after a month’s vacation and a return to campus in the middle of a Boston winter? 1L’s gearing up for round 2, 2L’s grinding away, and 3L’s wondering why we are still on campus. In addition, with the latest Covid surge, another round of “when will this all be over” doesn’t exactly help the cause.
But in this case the answer of what to write about seemed clear to me: my experiences in the Innocence Clinic working for my client. While I am not able to disclose many of the details about his case, I can say that my client had a clean record both before and after the arson he was wrongfully convicted of, and that our clinic recently filed a motion for new trial looking to overturn his conviction using newly discovered evidence that demonstrates his innocence nearly twenty years later.
The following is a reflection based on my experience observing a Zoom hearing in housing court. Attending this hearing was part of an assignment for my clinic, the COVID-19 Relief Housing Clinic. The case I observed is not that of a client of our firm, but simply that of a litigant who virtually appeared in Zoom court that morning.
When I watch courtroom scenes on television and in movies, I am captivated by the persuasive oration, surprise evidence, and yes, the juicy drama. Superficially, attending a status hearing in Housing Court via Zoom was not so different from watching a televised courtroom experience. After all, I opened up my laptop and sat down at my desk to watch the scenes unfold through my screen. But the experience was nothing like watching a media portrayal of a courtroom drama. Because this wasn’t Netflix, and the spectacle wasn’t written with the sole function of my entertainment. That morning, I left feeling the opposite of entertained. It’s a lot less fun when the characters aren’t just reciting their scripts on a stage. It’s hard to find enjoyment in the unfolding of real problems of real people, especially when you can sense that there may not be a happy ending.
In my eyes, the protagonist of today’s narrative was the defendant tenant (let’s call her J), setting forth her case for numerous civil damages against her landlord, C. Particularly, she was experiencing various issues with heat, both in a bedroom and with her oven. This made me remember my own apartment last winter, when the heat was stuck at 64 degrees for less than a day. I was angry, less so because the cold was intolerable, and more so because I feel I have an entrenched right to this utility at all times.
J was situated in her apartment, wearing what looked like a bathrobe. She had attended the hearing after getting three hours of sleep after her overnight shift at work. She looked stressed and overwhelmed. It was like the frustration I feel when I have to stay up late for RA duty, but still have an 8 am class the next day.
The one year-mark of the Covid-19 shutdown that forced BC Law to fundamentally change its operations came and went last week. This pandemic-focused world has created realities that none of us could have ever predicted, simultaneously shutting doors and forcing new opportunities to emerge in their wake. The only thing that has remained constant over the past year is the uncertainty of what the near-future will bring.
BC Law has done its best to adapt. A unique example of this is the emergence of the Covid Relief Housing Clinic earlier this semester. What began as a Summer 2020 effort to help people in the greater Boston area receive unemployment benefits has transformed to a semester-long clinic opportunity, addressing urgent legal issues regarding housing and upholding the original goal to meet the timely legal needs of those within our community.
I spoke with Professor Ana Rivera, who runs the clinic, to discuss the creation and utilization of this new addition to BC Law’s Experiential Learning Center.
1. When and how did the idea emerge for this clinic?
The idea for a clinic focused exclusively on housing came to me in the fall 2020, when the federal and local moratoria on evictions were scheduled to expire. There was a great concern that the number of eviction matters would spike exponentially, as workers in the retail, hotel, and restaurant industries continued to struggle either to find new work or to receive unemployment insurance benefits. It seemed right from a social justice perspective to divert resources to this particular problem. I contacted WATCH CDC, a family, housing, and adult education advocacy organization in Waltham, MA, with which our Civil Litigation Clinic has collaborated in the past, and proposed a partnership with BC Law to identify and provide legal assistance to Waltham tenants facing housing insecurity as a result of Covid-19. Having such an intimate relationship with tenants in Waltham, WATCH, through its executive director Daria Gere, was acutely aware of the need and embraced the opportunity. With the support of Professors Judy McMorrow and Renee Jones, the idea was realized.
One thing that I’ve really loved about BC Law is the opportunity to develop lawyering skills outside of the classroom. Right now, 2Ls are in the midst of competing in the prestigious Wendell F. Grimes Moot Court competition. In honor of this notable law school experience, I sat down with Sarah Nyaeme, President of the Board of Student Advisors (and my roommate), to learn more about the competitions offered at BC Law.
Tell us a little bit about the Board of Student Advisors and what role the BSA plays in law school academic competitions.
The Board of Student Advisors is the student-led organization that helps facilitate and run the various advocacy programs at BC. These programs include the ABA Negotiation and Client Counseling competitions, Moot Court, and Mock Trial. The BSA includes both 2L and 3L co-chairs who are assigned to specific competitions. In addition, we have 1L representatives who shadow the co-chairs and assist with the behind-the-scenes work.
Can you provide us with an overview of the various competitions?
Deciding where to go to law school is no easy task. If you are anything like I was, you may still be deciding if a city or traditional campus is right for you. You also may even be wondering if you are more of an East Coast or West Coast person (or something in between). Well, lucky for you, BC Law is hosting Admitted Student Month, which kicked off on March 1! Throughout the month of March, BC will be hosting a ton of live and recorded content, which you can find out about here.
Although this virtual world is not what any of us hoped for, both the administration and students have tried to find ways to connect with prospective students and share why we love BC Law, while answering any questions future students may have. One unique way that I have particularly enjoyed meeting prospective students is through the virtual coffee chats.
Just last week, my roommate and I hosted one over Zoom and we received a number of good questions. It immediately made me realize that many of the questions we were receiving were largely due to the fact that students can’t visit campus (if this is true for you, be sure to check out the brand new virtual tour.) Although coffee chats are still taking place throughout March (and you can sign up here), I thought it would be helpful to provide a roundup of some of the questions we’ve received, as well as our responses.
BC Law places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning, beginning your 1L year. But as a 2L and 3L, you have the opportunity to dive even deeper into practice through externships or clinic experiences. You can learn more about the clinic offerings at BC here, but because I decided to take the externship route, I’ll reflect on that experience.
Through BC’s Semester-in-Practice program, students are given the opportunity to secure job placements in Boston or beyond for course credit. The number of hours per week depends on the placement and the student, and all students must participate in a weekly seminar as well. I decided to spend last semester at Tripadvisor, where I worked (virtually due to COVID) 4 days a week.